Several months ago, I stumbled across this blog post courtesy of a Facebook friend, and it’s stuck with me. I’m the first to admit that I don’t know nearly as much about the small business and start up world as I should, but the article provided a pretty good general overview of leadership principles and the basics of setting strategies.
The first item on the list of leadership principles really stuck out to me:
“Know Where You’re Going: Make sure you know what you are leading your team toward accomplishing in the world!”
I’ve worked for a large company for the past three summers, and while I’ve learned a lot there, it’s been easy to be a good leader without developing this trait to its fullest extent. With large corporations, there is almost always someone above you telling you the gist of what is expected or needs to be delivered. As an intern, I was at the bottom of the food chain, so being a “leader” simply meant staying one step ahead of what my manager expected of me and taking control of my own work. In my opinion, being “one step ahead” is definitely not anywhere near “know where you’re going” but it’s a step in the right direction, for lack of a better term. Reading Ryan Allis’ blog post earlier made me realize that becoming a good leader means being as many steps ahead as possible at any given time.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have much experience with working in a small business setting, so I can only hypothesize on how I would act in a leadership position given the chance to call the shots. While I have held various leadership roles over the past few years in different clubs and organizations, the stakes are definitely higher in the corporate world. That being said, I didn’t feel the need to develop that strong sense of knowing where I wanted to take the social committee of my sorority or jazz choir, because I saw those opportunities as being very temporary leadership roles that had limited possibilities for growth. Unfortunately, too often I have seen students in high school and college become content with this kind of static leadership.
For me, reading these blog posts helps me discover what aspects of leadership I need to focus on. Being able to know where a project is going is key for enabling dynamic growth – something that, while perhaps not necessary for clubs or organizations, is vital for the survival of small businesses. Even in large companies, it is possible to do your job well without having a well-defined vision, but it probably won’t get you very far in terms of being in a position to decide on how to take things to the next level. It’s clear to me that there is a big difference between being a leader in a maintenance sense and being the kind of leader who truly pushes forward. Becoming the latter is what sets the best managers apart from the rest, and something that I hope to emulate moving forward as my career picks up in full swing.